Hood Writes of Love and Loss
The Obituary Writer, the 13th novel by Literary Arts + Studies (LAS) faculty member Ann Hood, is featured in the April issue of Oprah magazine as one of Ten Titles to Pick Up Now. “In this poignant and incisive novel, Ann Hood brings history back to life in the most intimate way, chronicling the love affairs and heartbreaks of two very different women in two very different times,” notes Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers.
The story in The Obituary Writer toggles back and forth in time between 1919 San Francisco, when obituary writer Vivien Lowe searches for the man she lost in the Great Earthquake of 1906, and 1961 Washington, DC, when Claire, a young wife and mother, struggles to decide whether to follow the man she loves or stay in her secure marriage. The hopeless, desperate post-Earthquake setting stands in stark contrast with the beginning of JFK’s presidency – America’s much ballyhooed Age of Innocence.
“Hood’s language is fine and supple,” writes a critic for Booklist. “The settings are lusciously rendered, the melancholy air is seductive... and her intricate inquiry into grief, guilt and love is haunting.” Andre Dubus III, author of Townie and The House of Sand and Fog, adds: “It is a rare novelist who can summon the creative nerve to plumb the depths of grief, but that’s just what Ann Hood does here with such compassion and grace. The Obituary Writer is an unflinching exploration of loss and love – a deeply engaging and moving book.”
This isn’t the first time Hood has explored the topic of grief in her fiction and nonfiction. Her bestselling novel The Knitting Circle and her memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief considered another kind of grief – the deep pain brought on by the loss of a child. In 2002 Hood experienced that pain first-hand when her five-year-old daughter died suddenly of a viral infection. In a recent interview on Rhode Island Public Radio, she described grief as extremely complicated and said that her own heart was eventually able to “hold grief and joy side by side.”
Hood is equally at ease writing short essays and novels. “It’s a wonderful dual existence,” she told RI NPR. “I can write an essay in two days. A novel takes three years. Novels are an investment, a complicated relationship.”
A senior lecturer in LAS, Hood has been teaching a beginning fiction writing workshop and other courses to RISD students for more than a decade. She grew up in Rhode Island and eventually moved back – settling in Providence, where she currently lives with her husband and their children. As an adult, she’s experienced Rhode Island from a new vantage point and frequently uses local landmarks, streets and restaurants in her fiction.
Hood has won a Best American Spiritual Writing Award, the Paul Bowles Prize for Short Fiction and two Pushcart Prizes. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Tin House, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. This spring she’s on a national book tour promoting her new novel and in late August she will teach a fiction workshop in Tuscany, followed by a nonfiction workshop in September as part of Middlebury’s intensive writers’ conference Bread Loaf in Sicily.
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